Be careful what you burn

Fires: Many items prohibited due to health hazards.

This fall we’ve received a number of complaints from residents about neighbours  burning debris.

While there’s something nice about having a small bonfire of leaves in the fall, there are a number of issues that should be considered by anyone thinking about burning.

Columbia Shuswap Regional District (CSRD) fire departments are regularly called out to suppress debris fires that are untended or have gotten out of hand.

Each average fire call costs about $800 per hour; with more than 300 calls year-to-date amongst 13 fire departments, these costs are significant.

This year CSRD fire departments managed 91 burning/nuisance complaints and suppressed 39 brush and  grass/interface forest fires.

When residents burn in non-compliance during an open burn prohibition, paid-on- call members may have to leave their day jobs to respond to calls which could have been easily prevented.

We know that burning releases hydrocarbons, pollutants, dust and ash, which are health hazards and are especially irritating to those with respiratory illnesses.

Burning household garbage, asphalt/asphalt products, plastics, construction waste, fuel and lubricant containers, paint and paint products, rubber, Styrofoam, tar paper, rail ties, tires and treated lumber is prohibited.

The burning of these materials may release toxins, some of which have been linked to the occurrence of cancer.

The CSRD does not have any bylaws regulating open burning. Under the Environmental Management Act, the province has an Open Burning Smoke Control Regulation, which may be accessed online at:

Before you burn, consider the following:

• Is this the best way to dispose of these materials? Can anything be recycled, reused, composted, chipped into mulch, or disposed of at a CSRD dump?

The CSRD routinely offers periods each year when tipping fees are waived for disposal of brush and yard waste.

• Is the weather suitable for good smoke dispersion? What is the ventilation index?

It should be at least 55 or “fair” for an open fire. You can check the ventilation index for your area online at or by calling 1-888-281-2992.

If the ventilation index is lower than 55, the smoke from your fire may not disperse well and may create significant health and/or environmental hazards.

• Is the smoke from my fire going to bother my neighbours?

• Which way is the wind blowing?

• Are there any air quality burning bans in place? To check this out, go to

• Do I need to obtain a burn reference number? (If the debris pile is two metres or higher, and three metres or wider, you need to get a burn reference number). To do so, call 1-888-797-1717. There is no charge for this, but it does register your fire.

More information is available at

These requirements for open fires are based on the common-sense approach of doing no harm to others.

Please give these points your full attention whenever you plan to burn.

– Paul Demenok is the Area C Director for the Columbia Shuswap Regional District